By Annie Hauser with Surge for Water
Twenty-three-year-old Mongo Alice and her baby from Kaberamaido, Uganda, are two of the millions of women and children who lack access to safe water.
“I travel several kilometers three times a day to fetch 60 liters of water for my family’s well being,” she said. “My baby is usually with me on these treks, as there is no one else to look after him. My 4 year old either accompanies me, or stays home with the neighbors.”
Time traveling to water sources keeps women like Mongo away from valuable activities, such as work and caring for her family. The water she collects and consumes without any further purification is also highly unsafe for drinking.
Safe water and sanitation truly transforms communities, helping to end the cycle of poverty. Accessible water means time for education and play. Safe water means health, a life free from debilitating waterborne diseases.
Uganda, where Mongo lives, is nicknamed the Pearl of Africa for its dense forests, stunning lakes, snow-capped Ruwenzori mountains, green hills, tea plantations and diverse wildlife. It’s also where 8.4 million people lack access to safe water. Some 31.5 million (78.5 percent of the population) lack access to adequate sanitation.
That’s where Surge for Water comes in. The volunteer-run, nonprofit organization invests in sustainable, locally sourced water and sanitation solutions. In the spring of 2015, Surge’s cofounder Shilpa Alva and teammate Melina Faria climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds and awareness and to kickstart work in Uganda.
They summited successfully, and, in less than a year, Surge can report success. Surge fostered strong partnerships with three community organizations and developed holistic solutions: rehabilitating three water sources (with four more on the way); distributing 558 locally produced ceramic water filters; constructing two latrines for schools, and educating thousands of children and adults on critical water and sanitation practices, including a specially designed session on menstrual hygiene.
In one year, Surge has provided 14,788 people safe water and sanitation—and their work in the country has just begun!
Surge uses a community-based, grassroots approach, believing that locals should not be beneficiaries of aid, but owners of transformation. This community-led model allows a clear understanding of local issues and the solutions needed.
Josephine Aemo from Kaberamaido, one of Surge’s program beneficiaries, recently shared how access to a water purification filter transformed her life: “I own a small restaurant that gets about 50 customers a day. Five months ago, I started using a water filter, which now provides safe water to my big family as well as all my neighbors and customers. We love having safe water access, as we no longer have severe stomach pains, and what is even better is that I have gained a lot more customers as word about the filter spreads. Everyone loves to drink safe water!”
Through its work, Surge has also met many wonderful local leaders in communities throughout Uganda and the world — the true heroes in this fight toward water and sanitation for all.
One such hero is Florence Ringe. Florence’s four children and husband live in Kampala, Uganda, while she followed her calling and moved back to her childhood village to join the fight against poverty. There, she founded the organization Prince of Peace (POPOW), which has a bold mission: to ensure water and sanitation access for the more than 200,000 people in Kaberamaido. Although the issue is severe, POPOW and Surge are currently the only organizations working on water in this district.
Florence has wisdom beyond her years and offers inspiration to everyone she meets. She lives her life upholding these values—values as critical to ending global poverty as any physical solution. She says: “To make a difference in people’s lives, you don’t have to necessarily be brilliant, rich, beautiful and handsome, or perfect. You just have to care enough, be there, do what you can with what you have. Then the difference will flourish and lives [will be] transformed.”
Surge for Water is a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization that invests in communities with safe water and sanitation solutions. Their work has reached over 200,000 people in 11 countries. To learn more and be a part of their mission, please visit surgeforwater.org.